I first became aware of Charles Lollar on January 13, 2010. I remember it vividly because it was at a TEA Party on a cold night in Annapolis. I think it was the only TEA Party that I have ever attended after dark. Lawyer's Mall was filled to capacity in protest of O'Malley's budget mismanagement and the anticipated new taxes to be proposed in that legislative session. The event had been organized by Americans for Prosperity, but I was there with the Hagerstown TEA Party. There were several dynamic speakers there that were able to tap into the fervor of the crowd, but none better than a man named Charles Lollar. As I heard him speak I began to work my way threw the incredible crowd hoping to see the man behind the charisma. I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't intrigued to see a black man who was a Republican and who seemed to "get" the TEA Party, especially since the movement had been maligned by Liberals and branded as racists. I was fascinated. Beyond that he was able to almost "preach" Conservative principles unscripted, intelligently, and with a passion that I am sure convinced all who were there that he indeed shared our principles, our concerns, and our hopes for going forward. I knew nothing more about him, but I felt right then and there that he would play an important role in the future of Maryland politics. Over 4 years later I have learned that he is not only a charismatic speaker, but that he is highly educated (Political Science, B.A. and an MBA), a decorated Marine (Officers Candidate School), a devoted family man (married 20 years with 4 daughters), and someone with a grasp on Conservative issues like no other. I attended the Charles Lollar for Governor Meet and Greet last night and I was not disappointed.
The event was held in a trendy setting, where good food and drink were available, and cool music played in the background. It had all of the expected promotional materials like palm cards, signs, and T-shirts and even the expected raffle for a very classy hospitality basket. Team Lollar did a great job of organizing the event. I immediately noticed something different about this candidate's event, and that was that he was actually greeting and meeting with people for at least an hour before the event. I don't mean hobnobbing with Republican elected officials...he was going from table to table talking with regular people. When he came to my table I asked him several of my own questions about issues in addition to some that had been texted to me to ask on other's behalf. His answers were so forthright and succinct that it almost through me off task. I asked him if I could have a chance to talk to him again after he spoke and he said that he would be available. He was not introduced by Republican bigwigs or marched out with pomp and circumstance. He just grabbed a mic and did what Charles Lollar does. He spoke about issues.
He started by saying that he believes that many people are asking the wrong questions. We are struggling in this state. There is a mad exodus of businesses from the state. People need jobs and they are over taxed and over regulated. Yet people are asking him what he is going to do about social issues. He couldn't have spoken a TEA Party precept more precisely if it had been dictated to him. Many people do not realize--because of the Liberal media smear campaign against the TEA Party--that although individual TP members may feel strongly about certain social issues, in the spirit of compromise and cooperation they have always avoided them as a group or organization. This is what he said:
"I am not running to be your priest. I am running to be your governor. There is a very real difference between those two occupations. If you want me to be your pastor and tell you how to live then let's get out of the governor business and start a church and I will tell you how to live. My job as your governor, if I am honored enough to serve you, is to be held accountable for every penny that you sent to Annapolis. To make sure it is spent properly and what is not spent properly should go right back to you the taxpayer."Can I get an "Amen"?
As if we needed convincing that this state is struggling, Lollar rattled off some statistics. In the last 5-7 years we've lost 40,000 jobs. We have lost 6,500 small businesses, taking with them $5.5B in revenue. [We historically lose revenue when taxes are excessive.] In one fiscal year the state budget has gone from $34.6B to $36.9B. That is an increase of $2.5B or 7.5%. In that same fiscal year the Consumer Price Index cost of living grew only 1.5%. "That means that your government grows at 5 times the rate of your pocketbooks...and why do we need 74 new taxes over 7 years? There is nothing left to tax!" Lollar then laid out his 5-part plan for economic growth:
- Control Spending.
- Tax Payer's Bill of Rights- Legislatively ensuring that our government no longer grows faster than our CPI.
- Return to Zero-based Budgeting- Starting with what we spent last year and not with a wish list for which we increase taxes in order to obtain all that we want.
- Hiring/Employee Budget Accountability by Department Secretaries..
"The governor of Maryland controls the budget. So whenever the governor decides to, he can make the hard decisions to balance it...whether he does so or not. Yes the legislators vote it up and down and they can propose taxes against it, but the governor controls it."2. Regulation Reform. Create a Citizens Industry Review Board to work in conjunction with the EPA. The board will be made up of volunteers, so there will be no cost to the taxpayer. They will have experience in their respective industries and create common sense solutions that respects the environment, but does not senselessly burden the business owners, farmers, watermen and the economy as a whole.
"No longer will academia regulate any industry without experience."
- No appointed boards or commissions with the power to raise taxes and fees.
- No raiding the Transportation Trust Fund to balance the budget.
- This governor will understand that I work for you and you do not work for me.
"We will not allow non-legislative non-elected bodies or commission boards to increase your fees or your taxes going forward. That should be left to those who are elected, and not to those who are appointed."4. Education.
- School Choice so that children are not trapped in a school that is operating below standards just because of where they live. Wherever the child goes to school his parent's tax dollars will follow, either by voucher or tax credit. Schools will be competing for your children!
- Internships in high school especially for those seeking a trade instead of a degree.
- Teacher training out of their districts and maybe even out of the country in order to expand their teaching experiences and perspectives.
"The often touted No.1 ranking in education is not based on standardized test scores. It is based on dollars spent per student as well as the number of teachers affiliated with or a part of our public union. They know that! What we need is less and less students needing remedial courses in order to get into college."5. Repeal taxes.
- Rain Tax
- Progressive Gas Tax
- Taxes on pensions of First Responders
"With the Rain Tax we are the laughing stock of our region."The following is a Q & A exchange with the audience (only parts appear on the video due to technical difficulties) and also from my interview. The answers are mostly paraphrased.
1. Q [Audience]: What will you do to make a college education affordable?
A: Overall the cost of in-state tuition is quite affordable at just under $9,000 a year. Two things that can help:
- Educational Trust Funds. Start early saving for your children and grandchildren.
- Repeal or amend the Dream Act. You cantnot have one group of people paying into the system and another group not paying into the system (illegal immigrants) and then have both groups receive the same benefits. Somebody has to pay the difference between the in-state ($9,000) and the out-of-state ($28,000) tuition and it is the taxpayer. This has nothing to do with racism. It has to do with fairness and this act could lead us into financial trouble. We can't afford it.
A: Poor spending decisions and wish-list budgeting has led to this tax burden. We plan to:
- Create a board to look at each one of the 74 taxes to determine how many we can eradicate.
- Enact a flat 5% tax rate across the board.
- Look at casinos for future tax revenue (when asked by the audience).
A. No. I have always identified with the TEA Party on issues. I have presented TEA Party principles to some very tough audiences...as you might imagine.
3b. Q: Why do you think establishment Republicans do not embrace the TEA Party?
A: I think it threatens their status as career politicians. Politics was never meant to be a career. The founding fathers intended for elected officials to work jobs. They were to serve from January to March and then go home and work their jobs.
4. Q: Do you think that Plan Maryland has adversely affected farmers?
A: Yes. Plan Maryland seeks to target growth and resources towards an urban environment making it hard or in some cases impossible for farmers to sell their property or to get a loan against their property. I do not think that rural Maryland is being served by this administration.
5. Q: Where do you stand on fracking? Do you think that technology has now made this a safe industry?
A: "It is time!" We do not need to spend anymore taxpayer money on research and studies. It is being done successfully and safely in our neighboring states, and they are horizontally fracking and taking our resources and revenue. This could bring major economic growth to Western Maryland.
6. Q: Do you think that SB281 went too far?
A: Absolutely. They have no right to define what kind of firearms our citizens may own. The 2nd Amendment is the right of every citizen to protect themselves with whatever firearm they choose to purchase.
7. Q: Hagerstown is a dying city. How can the state help revitalize our downtown?
A: This administration does not want to help Hagerstown in a big way or they would have enabled fracking in Western Maryland, improved I-81, and created the highway by-pass that has been discussed for years. [I wish that I had been able to ask him to explain this further.] They are putting more state resources into the larger urban centers of the state and giving the rest of the state little to nothing.
8. Q: Hagerstown had been negotiating with a minor league baseball team to build a new stadium. The team has since decided to leave town, but the possibility of building a new stadium is still being considered. Do you think that public funds should be used to build stadiums?
A: Absolutely not. "The day is over for taxpayer money for stadiums. The Governor is in charge of the budget. You will not see a stadium in my budget."
9. Q [Audience]: Would your administration make any changes to the pension plans of First Responders?
A: I think that we can find ways to make a better life for our First Responders. I think that their pensions should be like my combat pay was in Kosovo...tax free.
10. Q: Where to you stand on increasing the minimum wage?
A: I think that it inflates the whole system and winds up costing the wager earner and consumers more in taxes and increased costs that are passed down to the consumer. I think that lower taxes and smarter budgeting are the answers.
11. Q: What do you think of Common Core?
A: "It is unconstitutional." For a video of the full answer on Common Core go to http://youtu.be/F1rnB_e_NsQ.
In the end, he asked for volunteers but only if they could be committed to sticking to the issues and resisting the urge for bickering and nasty campaign tactics. He admonished everyone to stick to the issues. Privately I asked him about the rumors that his campaign team was "falling apart." He said that he cannot control every word that comes out of the mouths of 100 or more volunteers, but that once he was informed that one volunteer had used terms degrading to the developmentally challenged he took care of it and that person is no longer with the campaign. He said that his team is united and focused and moving forward. Based on the event that evening...I would have to agree with him.
You can see the video of his speech by going to http://youtu.be/CqPm_WP0r9E.
Visit the Charles Lollar for Governor website at http://www.lollar4governor.com/.
Also see: http://liberatedconservativewoman.blogspot.com/2014/03/meet-candidates-for-governor-of-maryland.html